Princess Royal Harbour Dredging Gets the Green Light (Australia)

The Australian Government has approved the Albany Port Authority’s plans to dredge deeper access to Princess Royal Harbour. It is one of the last obstacles in the way of Grange Resources proceeding with its proposed Southdown magnetite iron ore project at Wellstead. Only State Government approval for the dredging is needed and this is expected within weeks.

Last week, Grange Resources managing director Russell Clark told the Weekender that all the pieces were finally falling into place to proceed with the mine.

Grange is on a secure financial footing after a settling in the world’s economic downturn, iron ore prices have improved and the company’s Chinese partners want the mine to go ahead.

Extra drilling for water at the mine site has taken place over the last couple of weeks, and the agreements with landowners, on whose land the 400mm slurry pipe will be buried for the ore to be moved to the Port, were being secured.

Mr Clark said a lot of preparatory work had been done, but a final review by independent engineering company Amec Minproc, expected in six months, will determine whether the mine is both viable and ready to begin.

“Our timeline for a start is by the end of 2013,” Mr Clark said.

If it proceeds, the mine has an estimated life of up to 30 years, benefitting the region.

The deepening of a channel and the harbour will provide access from King George Sound into the harbour for bulk carriers to load ore from a jetty to be constructed near the former Hunts pea factory.

The port received Commonwealth approval last week after an environmental approval process which took about five years.

The approval was issued by the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts under both the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999; and the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act, 1981.

But State Government approval is yet to be received, with the Minister for the Environment Donna Faragher still considering the recommendations made by the EPA in January.

Albany Port Authority chairman Peter West said the Commonwealth approval was an encouraging sign for an increase in regional trade.

“Until such time as the Minister has made a decision relating to the State approval and conditions have been evaluated, we do not know the implications for the project,” Mr West said.

The proposed Albany Port upgrade is a major project for the Port as it is expected to increase annual tonnage throughput from around four million tonnes to 11 million tonnes with the export of the magnetite iron ore.

Port development has always been hindered by having relatively low volumes, relying mainly on grain for decades but backed by woodchips in recent years, ensuring record tonnages.

The introduction of the iron-ore trade will help reduce costs of tug operators, stevedores and other port suppliers.

The iron ore mine site is near Wellstead and the product will be delivered to the Port via a slurry pipeline.

The dredging will be in two stages.

The first will shape the batters and the berth pocket, and create the proposed reclaim area of nine hectares for the construction of the new berth that is required to accommodate the new trade.

The second program will be the bulk of the dredging to increase the volume of the berth area.

The Port anticipates a suite of stringent and legally binding environmental conditions set by both the State and Commonwealth Environment Ministers.

It claims the re-shaping of the channel profile will allow more water to flush in and out of the harbour and is likely to improve the water quality of the harbour.

But locals remain uncertain.

Albany City Council wrote to Ms Faragher expressing its concern over the proposed dredge spoil dump site near Breaksea Island.

Save Our Sound protestors claim it would disrupt fishing and whale watching businesses. About 13 boats took part in an on-site protest on Saturday.

Organiser Tony Harrison said group could take a class action against the dredging. He said there were significant implications for the Sound’s environment.

Albany Port Authority chairman Peter West said the Commonwealth approval was an encouraging sign for an increase in regional trade.

“Until such time as the Minister has made a decision relating to the State approval and conditions have been evaluated, we do not know the implications for the project,” Mr West said.

The proposed Albany Port upgrade is a major project for the Port as it is expected to increase annual tonnage throughput from around four million tonnes to 11 million tonnes with the export of the magnetite iron ore.

Port development has always been hindered by having relatively low volumes, relying mainly on grain for decades but backed by woodchips in recent years, ensuring record tonnages.

The introduction of the iron-ore trade will help reduce costs of tug operators, stevedores and other port suppliers.

The iron ore mine site is near Wellstead and the product will be delivered to the Port via a slurry pipeline.

The dredging will be in two stages.

The first will shape the batters and the berth pocket, and create the proposed reclaim area of nine hectares for the construction of the new berth that is required to accommodate the new trade.

The second program will be the bulk of the dredging to increase the volume of the berth area.

The Port anticipates a suite of stringent and legally binding environmental conditions set by both the State and Commonwealth Environment Ministers.

It claims the re-shaping of the channel profile will allow more water to flush in and out of the harbour and is likely to improve the water quality of the harbour.

But locals remain uncertain.

Albany City Council wrote to Ms Faragher expressing its concern over the proposed dredge spoil dump site near Breaksea Island.

Save Our Sound protestors claim it would disrupt fishing and whale watching businesses. About 13 boats took part in an on-site protest on Saturday.

Organiser Tony Harrison said group could take a class action against the dredging. He said there were significant implications for the Sound’s environment.

[mappress]

Source: albany, June 24, 2010;

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